Building a House: Creating a Plan

It’s time for the house renovation/building writing to have its own section on the blog.   Things are finally moving along, although certainly slowly, but we’re moving from the dream state to the actual physical doing something state.    Today our building consent application (permit) was granted for the Total Span double garage and so that means ACTION and forward motion.   We advance from moving at a snails pace to moving at a turtles pace!

Let me give you a recap.

A year ago we interviewed, hired, and began working with our architect, Russell Devlin of Solarchitect.   We have spent countless hours with him, often meeting two to three times a month for several hours at a time to bring to fruition on paper our ‘dream’ house;  well, I should say, our dream house given the constraints of working with an existing house to renovate and an existing landscape from which to make it all fit.   Everyone said it is harder to do a renovation than to build from scratch and I have to agree.  It was quite difficult at times to figure out how to fit in all the things we desired.

But we’ve done it quite satisfactorily.   The plans, or working drawings as they say, are done!   Below are snapshots of various views of the existing house versus the plans for the new.

Wainui FrontWainui Plans

We are doubling the size of the house/enclosed area, going from about 170 m2 (approx. 1700 sq. ft) to about 315 m2 (3150 sq. ft).  And no, we are not building a McMansion, thank you very much.  Part of the rebuild includes re-doing the garage which is quite big on its own.   The existing house itself is only 120 m2, so on the smallish side and not quite large enough for us to live comfortably.  What we have done is the following:

The kitchen and bathroom (left side looking front) of the existing house is going to get torn down.

The outbuilding (the separate white building to the left of the house) is going to get removed.

The garage is going to get removed (photo below).

Existing Garage

In it’s place we will build the following which will all be connected under one roof:

A much larger kitchen complete with 2 sinks, an island, a booth with awesome views, an induction range, and a Pivot Range wood burning cookstove which should put out enough heat to warm up the open plan kitchen/living/dining area and which will have a wetback system to heat up the hot water tank as a secondary alternative. (The primary source of power for our hot water tank will be solar!)
The “Link” which will join the existing house to the new “wing”.  The Link will contain a small space for my office, a shower/bathroom, a separate toilet room, an additional wood burner stove which will heat up the Wing and the Hall, and our laundry area.

The new “Wing” which will be built behind the Link into the hillside and which will contain our living quarters:  two comfortable sized bedrooms,  a lounge area, a kitchenette, and a comfortable bathroom complete with claw-foot tub and shower.

The Garage which will be a properly built garage with concrete slab floor (versus the ‘shed-like’ construction of the existing garage) and a garage door.  This will primarily be used as Bruce’s workshop space and the ‘toolshed’ and potentially a portion will be our ‘cold store’ room for veggies and canned goods.

The Hall which will be built on top of the garage and will be a large multipurpose space (60 m2):  our hobby room, our media room, and most importantly, the place we can earn some income from by running workshops for up to 15-20 people.  It is our intention to invite teachers/healers/yoga instructors to run classes out of the Hall and Bruce is also thinking about leading classes on making orgonite/orgone generators, etc.

Some of the stumbling blocks we’ve been grappling with is how to handle the demolition/deconstruction of the buildings I mentioned above.    Do we preserve them, move them, sell them?

OutbuildingThe outbuilding:   This has been a big source of stress between Bruce & I.  It’s a nice size building about 7m x 4m (30 ft x 12 ft) and currently contains three small rooms – one of which is plumbed with a toilet and rudimentary washroom.   It’s got updated electrics but it’s not insulated and some of the floorboards are dilapidated.  If it were fixed up just a bit, it would make for excellent summer-time additional sleeping quarters.   Bruce has been adamant that we should preserve it and move it somewhere else on the property.  Our friend and engineering whiz Pete says he can build a trailer and hoist the building in its entirety onto it and then we can drag it with a 4-wheel drive tractor to it’s new destination.   I find that all hard to believe given that we have very limited flat space in which to put it and nothing but slope and curvy driveways on which to move it!   We have been talking about this for months asking everyone who comes over their opinion and of course, to be expected, we get different answers.

Pete came over recently and we did a walk around the property and the most logical place to potentially put it would be in the upper paddock.  In order to actually do this, we’d need to get a digger in to grade an area flat enough for the building and trailer for we’d want to keep the structure ‘non-permanent’ (i.e.: on wheels) so as not to have the hassle of dealing with the Council to make it a permitted building (which would require pouring a foundation and a whole lot of other expense).      And that’s part of where we come to also – how much is it going to cost to move it versus how much would it cost to build a new small building at our leisure verses how much could we get for selling it versus how much is it going to cost us in labor to tear it down.   Moving it or building a new small building would cost about $7 – $10k.  We’re not sure if we can sell it though I will be investigating that option shortly.    And tearing it down?  Well, that can be done on the cheap if we get a bunch of friends together for a weekend working bee.

Existing GarageThe garage:  Our existing garage/farm shed is well built, large (about 60m2 or 600 sq. ft) and only about 15 years old.    The only problem is that it doesn’t fit in with our overall redevelopment scheme.  So it needs to go.   Move it, sell it, re-use it?    We decided several months back that we would take it down.  However, logistically we were grappling with what to do with the garage’s current contents (it is chokka full with stuff) during construction as everything has to be moved elsewhere.  We decided that we could benefit from a smaller garage elsewhere on the property to be used for the cars and/or additional storage space.   Voila – a Total Span 6m2 (36 sq. ft) pre-fabricated double garage was the answer.

Total Span garage

Easy peasy the Total Span man said.   The garage takes two weeks to manufacture and only a few days to erect.   All we need is a building permit from the Council.  Heh, heh, heh.   Little did we know.  We submitted our consent application in MARCH!  At the end of April we got word that the application was denied until we submitted further information about storm water discharge.  That caused us several weeks time (like more than a month) while we got a soil engineer scheduled to do some tests and provide us with a report.  Then our Council contact person went on holiday for two weeks and nothing got done.  Then there was one more question from them and fact-finding mission from us.   The weeks crept by.  But we did it and our permit is approved and waiting for pickup.   Only six months spent in the beauracratic black hole of doom!

The next step is to get the excavation guy scheduled to do the concrete foundation.  He had assured us that he needs only a week or two to do the job.  I’m going to bet it’s double that.  And then the weather needs to cooperate too!

So with any bit of luck, I forecast we will have a garage by November and then we will have the arduous task of moving a full garages’ contents up hill!

As to what to do with the existing garage, we still haven’t figured that out yet.  We may try to sell it or else we will keep the materials for future year building projects.  We did look into whether we could reuse the timber and corrugated iron in the renovation but our architect says no.

Meanwhile, at our last meeting (in June) with our architect Russell and his colleague Sandy, we decided not to lodge the building consent application just yet.   We’ve been very concerned about our budget as the scope of the project has increased and the ‘back of the hand’ estimates were coming in almost $150,000 over what we wanted to spend.  Gulp!   So we decided it would be in our interest to first collect bids from three different builders and also pay a small sum of money to one of the local Home Depot-like firms to provide us with a materials costing.     Through our network, we found three builders.   Sandy’s in charge of vetting them and obtaining the bids.    We’ve patiently been waiting for six weeks for all the information to be gathered and with any bit of luck we’ll have a meeting to review the data in the next two weeks.   Then we’ll decide whether to move forward and submit the application knowing full well that it could take upwards of four months for approval.   My guestimate as to when we break ground is now January 2010.

Stay tuned!